New materials gaining ground for touchscreen fabrication, says analyst

November 11, 2013 // By EDN
According to market research firm IHS, the dominance of indium-tin-oxide in the construction of touchscreens is being challenged by alternative technologies

Indium tin oxide (ITO) film and glass technology currently dominates the market for touch-screen display coating; ITO now has a massive lead in the market for transparent conductive coatings for touch screens, accounting for 95% of film demand by area, according to the new report entitled “Touch-Panel-Use Transparent Conductive Film Report – 2013” from IHS. However, by the end of 2017, area shipment of alternative technologies such as silver nanowire, copper mesh, silver mesh, silver halide, and silver nano particle will account for 34% of the market. The graph above is IHS' forecast of global shipments of touch-screen films, in square metres, green for UTO and red for new technologies.

The significance for engineers is highlighted by the comments of Irene Heo, senior analyst for display components and materials at IHS. “The use of alternative films is being driven by demand for larger touch screens, where ITO film suffers some limitations...until this year, touch panels were mostly employed for applications with relatively small screens, such as smartphones, tablet PCs, notebook PCs, ATMs and car navigation systems. But recently, touch user interface (UI) began to be applied to devices with larger screens, such as all-in-one (AIO) PCs, electronic bulletin boards and large notebook PCs. As a result, this year has turned out to be a major milestone for market adoption of non-ITO films.”

ITO comes in two forms, film and glass. The film form of ITO carries a high resistance of 100 Ohms per square, making it difficult to use for displays larger than 15 inches. For touch-screen displays larger than 15 inches, ITO glass is the dominant technology. ITO glass has a resistance of about 50 Ohms per square, much lower than ITO film. A touch panel up to 20 to 30 inches can be attained using ITO glass.

Non-ITO films are competing with both ITO film and glass for different sizes. In particular, non-ITO films have already been applied